With Conan Vol.1: The Frost Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories, Dark Horse embarked on a bold strategy where the classic Conan stories were shaped anew, with writer Kurt Busiek putting together a continuous narrative that charted the rise of Conan from a simple Cimmerian warrior to the King of Aquilonia. With the addition of fantastic artists like Cary Nord and Dave Stewart, the series began well with the first volume, establishing a clear frame of reference for the characters and his adventures in a way that would always leave you wanting more.
In Conan Vol.2: The God In The Bowl and Other Stories we see more of the same as Conan now sets out for the Nemedian city-state to learn more of the world, to hone his skills as a thief and see more of what the world at large could offer someone like him. Kurt’s writing is very much on point in this volume, as it was in the previous one, and now that the Cimmerian is in more familiar circumstances, the story becomes all the more enjoyable. And along the way, artists Tom Mandrake, Cary Nord, Thomas Yeates and Dave Stewart add a particular vividness to the visual aspect, enhancing the story in every way possible.
Of all the heroes over the years who have left their mark on the wider world of fiction, few if any come close to the pedigree of Conan the Barbarian. Multiple movies, hundreds of comics, numerous novels and short stories. Decade after decade goes by and he is always there in some form. Dark Horse Comics, who have held the license for the comics on the character for several years now have done a great job of shepherding Conan through various iterations, whether as a young warrior first stepping out in the world, or as an aged king. That is where we start with here.
Conan Vol.1: The Frost Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories is a collection of some of the earliest Conan stories, chronologically speaking, where we meet Conan as a young adventurer who barely knows of the world outside of Cimmeria but is eager and willing to explore. Writer Kurt Busiek weaves the many stories together into a stunning narrative that is enhanced by artists Cary Nord, Thomas Yeates, Dave Stewart and others. The story is a little fuzzy here and there, but the creatives here have captured the essence of Conan really well and delivered a stunning package.
As the current holder of the comics license for most Conan properties, Dark Horse Comics has done much to delve into this rich world of swords and sorcery where the heroic Conan fights against threats both magical and mundane, and sometimes both. Where tales of his heroism and his barbarity and his savagery and his vengeance are told far and wide. In addition to the various ongoings and mini-series that have been put out by DHC, their Dark Horse Books imprint has also published a fair few graphic novels and adaptations, a few of which I’ve read and been more and more interested in the source material with each.
When I read Brian Wood’s Conan the Barbarian #1-6 last year, I was really struck with the passion of the romance between Conan and his lover Bêlit. And it appears that their romance is one of the cornerstones of Conan’s legends and mythology, developed over the years first by Robert E. Howard and then by many of the writers who have followed him, be it in the novel medium or in comics. In The Phantoms of The Black Coast, Conan is haunted by her restless spirit, unable to pass blissfully into the afterlife and so Conan the King goes on an epic journey to the depths of the world itself to free her, for his love for her is undying and a strength and motivation for him as well.